What to Know When Choosing a Caterer
What to Know When Choosing a Caterer
Think about the last few weddings you’ve attended. What details do you remember most? I’m not talking about who danced with who or what guests got the most sloppy drunk – I’m talking about the actual aspects of wedding planning that stood out to you.
For most people, the flowers and decorative aspects are remembered as being “pretty” or “stunning” but not necessarily remembered in minute detail by guests. But the food? That tends to be something people remember. And perhaps even more importantly, it is definitely something people talk about.
So when it comes to choosing your caterer, making sure you have found someone who can take on the task of creating a menu you will be happy with is essential. You want a caterer who can confidently serve all your guests and provide food that will have each and every person in attendance asking for their number after.
Which is why one of the best places to start may be with recommendations from friends. Unlike the dress or the venue, it isn’t really a faux pa to use the same caterer as a friend. And if someone you know can vouch for how incredible their caterer was, that could help you to narrow down your list as you go about interviewing and taste testing with potential vendors.
Short of recommendations, perusing websites can give you a feel for the style of food certain caterers lean towards, helping you to find those who seem most in line with your vision. From there, you need to call and check on availability first and foremost – if a caterer doesn’t have any openings on your wedding day, it’s best to know that up front and avoid wasting your time with them any further. Ideally, though, you would begin making calls to caterers as early as 9 months in advance. Remember, caterers (like most wedding vendors) tend to book pretty far ahead of schedule; so the earlier you can get started, the better.
The next thing to cultivate is your budget. Most caterers charge on what amounts to a per head basis, so you need to determine approximately how many guests you will have in attendance and what your budget will allow you to spend on each of them. Then, you need to ask caterers what is include in their price. For instance, you may find one caterer who is charging $10 less per head than your first choice – but upon interviewing them, you might come to realize that they don’t include tableware or linens like their competition. It’s important to remember that not every caterer provides exactly the same service, so don’t allow yourself to be swayed by just the number. Find out what that number actually includes before making any final decisions.
Once you have narrowed down your list of potential caterers to 2-3, set up meetings and request a tasting session and portfolio pictures. The portfolio pictures will give you an idea of the caterers plating style, how they set up service stations and the tasting session will let you gauge their talent in the kitchen. Both will be important factors in making your final decision. After all, you want food that tastes just as good as it looks when it is placed in front of your guests. Remember to ask questions about the teams involved in catering as well, and whenever possible, to speak to the chef who would be in charge of your event specifically. Keep in mind, tasting sessions also tend to book up pretty far in advance as well – and are probably not free – so again, the sooner you can get in with a caterer, the better.
Finally, come prepared with a list of questions and your partner; choosing a caterer is one of the more fun aspects of wedding planning, and is definitely something the two of you should enjoy together!